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    1. Home
    2. Sustainable Living
    3. 2018 in review

    Pioneering change & driving growth: 2018 in review

    We’re eight years into our 10-year plan, and we’ve learnt a huge amount. We know the transformational change we want to see within our business and beyond will take more than 'business as usual' solutions. New technologies, new business models, new ways of thinking and new collaborations – they are all vital to creating the inclusive growth that will ensure a sustainable future for the world, its people, and our business.

    More and more of our brands will become explicit about the positive social and environmental impact they have. This is entirely aligned to the instincts of our people and to the expectations of our consumers. It is not about putting purpose ahead of profits, it is purpose that drives profits.

    Alan Jope, CEO

    We've always aspired to be pioneers – it has been part of our identity since 1885. Our Sustainable Living brands, which are the furthest ahead in embracing a strong social or environmental purpose, continue to lead the way. They’ve consistently grown faster than our other brands and have contributed an increasing amount to our turnover growth year-on-year.

    The need for a pioneering mindset has never been greater. While we still face challenges, it’s clear that doing things differently – while staying true to our values – will continue to be key to our future success while fuelling progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals and a world in which sustainable living is commonplace.

    How are we driving this progress? In 2018, we...

    ... took important steps towards a circular plastics economy

    Closing the loop on plastic waste

    A technological breakthrough and a multi-stakeholder effort to increase recycling – this is the kind of combined approach that we believe will make the circular economy a reality

    Our sachet recycling pilot plant in Indonesia opened in 2018 and it’s the world's first to use CreaSolv? Recycling technology, which we’ve been co-developing since 2011. This technology recycles sachets into safe, high-quality polymers that can be used again and again. We aim to transform the problem of sachet waste, which litters streets, waterways and oceans, into a sustainable growth opportunity.

    And in January 2019, we announced a partnership with Loop?, a waste-free shopping and delivery pilot project in the US and France, in which products are shipped directly to consumers, then returned and refilled. Nine of our brands are involved and a number have also developed new formats for the platform – such as refillable deodorant sticks made from stainless steel and toothpaste tablets which come in a recyclable jar.

    Find out about our approach to the circular economy and how we’re rethinking plastic packaging.

    ... launched new water-smart products that use less water or no water at all

    Our fragrant, easy-to-use odour-killing spray reduces the number of times toilets need to be flushed.

    Elizabeth Mokwena, Domestos Marketing Manager

    Domestos Flush Less is a toilet spray that disinfects and eliminates odours without the need to flush, launched as a response to severe water shortages in South Africa. Day2, our new dry wash spray that revives clothes to look, feel and smell ‘just-washed’, is made with only 0.02% of the water used in a normal laundry load. And our Love Beauty and Planet range in the US and Europe uses fast-rinse technology in its conditioners – saving time and water in rinsing.

    Read more in water-smart products for water-stressed living.

    ... harnessed TV commercials to change handwashing habits on a massive scale

    Achieving our target two years ahead of schedule

    Since 2010, we have reached 1 billion people through our handwashing programmes

    Our on-ground Lifebuoy handwashing programmes have reached 459 million people since 2010. And by 2018, we’d reached a further 587 million people through our Lifebuoy TV commercials designed to change handwashing behaviour.

    We’ve long understood the power of TV commercials but wanted to test this out. So we ran a randomised control trial in India to examine our adverts' effectiveness. Our study, which was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Health Communication, showed a significant increase in the frequency of handwashing with soap – especially before eating, after people had watched our adverts. And via our innovative partnership with Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance) we’ve boosted the reach of Lifebuoy's handwashing programmes even more.

    Read more in healthy handwashing habits for life.

    ... unlocked growth for small-scale retailers through game-changing distribution models

    A novel distribution system that empowers women

    Kasha helps women in urban and rural areas, of all socioeconomic levels, overcome issues of social stigma, so they can purchase the health and personal care products they need

    A pioneering partnership between Unilever and the UK's Department for International Development is supporting social enterprises to pilot and test innovative business models that meet low income household needs. Projects funded include Kasha, a mobile e-commerce platform in Rwanda and UJoin, a mobile-friendly online community in Nairobi, Kenya, for owners of small shops, known as dukas.

    We're also using the power of digital to unlock the potential of our distribution network through our Jaza Duka partnership with Mastercard in Kenya which uses a combination of innovative technology, targeted training and the strength of our relationships with our distribution network to free retailers from the constraints of cash.

    Read more in empowering small-scale retailers for growth.

    ... pioneered innovative approaches to make our supply chain more transparent & sustainable

    Complete transparency is needed for radical transformation. We want this to be the start of a new industry-wide movement.

    Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer
    Palm Tree

    Palm oil mills mapped and published in 2018

    Satellite data helps us detect deforestation and assess risk. Mobile platforms mean we can reach farmers with critical information. And digitalisation helps us lead the way on transparency in critical areas such as palm oil. In 2018 we were the first consumer goods company to publicly disclose our palm oil supplier list. And by getting closer to thousands of smallholder farmers, we're bringing much-needed improvements to their livelihoods while driving our policy (PDF | 167KB) commitment to 'No deforestation, No development on peat, No exploitation of people and communities'.

    Read more in transforming the palm oil industry.

    ... developed a new scenario model to understand climate change risks

    Understanding the future of soy

    We evaluated the impact of climate change on one of our priority crops, publishing the findings to support our commitment to the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)

    Our work to reduce emissions is based on solid evidence ? two of our carbon reduction targets have been officially approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative. But we also need scenario analysis of the potential impacts of climate change on us, and our supply of agricultural ingredients.

    Building on previous scenario model work, we extended our analysis to study direct risks from climate change to the price of soybean oil. Our forecast for soy suggested that climate change may lead to higher yields and lower prices in future – we shared more details in our Annual Report (PDF | 4MB). But we know that this is only the start of our analysis to understand the impact of climate change on our key agricultural commodities, which we’re now extending to palm oil and tea.

    Read more in greenhouse gases and our approach to sustainable sourcing.

    ... advanced human rights for workers across our own business & supply chain

    New guidance to keep women safe

    With our support, UN Women developed a Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces to help tackle harassment

    Increase bar chart

    Of procurement spend through suppliers meeting our Responsible Sourcing Policy’s mandatory requirements

    We know there are challenges to human rights for workers in every value chain – including ours. We're creating change for the better through our Responsible Sourcing Policy, and we've made further progress through our new internal policy on the Sustainable Employment of Temporary Workers, new guidance to tackle poor working conditions in the trucking industry and our work with UN Women to develop a Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces. We’ve also made progress on our Framework for Fair Compensation, five principles which deliver compensation to our employees that is open, fair, consistent and explainable.

    Read more in fairness in the workplace.

    ... used the power of our brands to break down barriers that hold women back

    Academies of Shine for skills

    Fear of failure is a major cause of women not starting their own businesses. But after participating in our Academy of Shine in Brazil, 98% say they are going to launch their own business

    Blue woman

    Young people reached through the Dove Self-Esteem Project

    Dove launched the ‘No Digital Distortion’ mark, which guarantees that the women featured in brand images are just as you’d see them in real life - a natural part of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which has reached more than 35 million young people around the world.

    TRESemmé created The Presence MasterClass?, a free seven-part MasterClass designed to help women succeed. And our Radiant laundry brands ran their Academies of Shine, reaching over 200,000 women with career, entrepreneurship and confidence-boosting skills. Not only does this support Sustainable Development Goal 4 by increasing employability, it’s good for business too as we’ve seen particularly strong sales in the countries where the Academies are most advanced – Brazil, India and Thailand.

    Read more in opportunities for women.

    ... stepped up our commitment to end inequality & promote diversity

    Challenging harmful social norms

    We’re breaking down stereotypes, unconscious bias and outdated social norms

    Blue woman

    Of our managers are women

    35% of our total workforce and 49% of our managers are women. We're proud of our progress – but there's more to do to make our business more inclusive. We’ve announced our ambition to be the number one employer of choice for people with disabilities. And because we believe that stereotypes and harmful social norms are the biggest barriers to inclusion, we're breaking them down through our #Unstereotype the Workplace initiative, just as the external #Unstereotype campaign is changing the way advertising portrays women and men.

    Find out how we’re doing this in advancing diversity & inclusion.

    ... expanded our portfolio for consumers who love plant-based, non-dairy foods & refreshment

    More options, more choice

    We’ve expanded our ice cream ranges to include more vegan and non-dairy offerings, made with ingredients such as soy and almond milk, and plant-based pea protein

    More and more people want to know that the products they’re buying are not only nutritious, but also have a lower environmental footprint. It’s no surprise then, that vegan/non-dairy ice cream and frozen dessert is a fast-growing category.

    Our Ben & Jerry’s range, made with almond milk and certified vegan, has expanded to 11 flavours. Cornetto and Magnum have introduced vegan variants while Breyers launched two non-dairy options in the US. In total, we’ve added the European Vegetarian Union’s logo to over 1,000 of our products, including Hellmann's and Knorr. And we've acquired The Vegetarian Butcher who have ambitions to become the largest butcher in the world.

    Read more in plant-based options.

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